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04/15/88 the People Ex Rel. Fred L. v. the Village of Round Lake

April 15, 1988

LAKE COUNTY, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS

v.

THE VILLAGE OF ROUND LAKE PARK ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

THE PEOPLE ex rel. FRED L. FOREMAN, State's Attorney of

525 N.E.2d 868, 171 Ill. App. 3d 443, 121 Ill. Dec. 561 1988.IL.541

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Alvin Ira Singer, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE DUNN delivered the opinion of the court. WOODWARD and REINHARD, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE DUNN

Defendant, Village of Round Lake Park, annexed approximately 600 acres of farmland owned by defendants, La Salle National Bank, as trustee, and William Alter. Round Lake Park also passed ordinances which approved an annexation agreement pertaining to the Alter property and which rezoned the property. Plaintiffs, several local governmental entities in Lake County, filed this action for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, challenging the validity of the annexation agreement and the rezoning.

Approximately 4 1/2 years after this action was filed, defendants sought leave to amend their answers to include a statute of limitations defense. The trial court allowed defendants to so amend their answers. The trial court then denied plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration and granted judgment on the pleadings for defendants. Plaintiffs now appeal from the denial of the motion to reconsider the grant of defendants' motion to amend their answers and the entry of judgment on the pleadings. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

The ordinance annexing the Alter property was adopted on August 25, 1976. On the same date, Round Lake Park passed an ordinance rezoning the Alter property from agricultural to the 4-I "Light Industrial" zoning district of the Round Lake Park zoning ordinance. Round Lake Park also approved an annexation agreement relating to the Alter property which, among other things, waives certain provisions of the zoning ordinance.

This action began on June 3, 1981, when plaintiffs filed suit challenging Round Lake Park's annexation and rezoning of a separate 1,800-acre parcel known as the Heartland property. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on March 22, 1982, which, in addition to the Heartland action, challenged for the first time the validity of the Alter property annexation agreement and rezoning. Defendants' answers to the first amended complaint raised as an affirmative defense the statute of limitations.

In June 1983, the claims relating to the Heartland property and the Alter property were severed. On August 1, 1983, plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint relating only to the Alter property. Defendants' answers to the second amended complaint did not raise the statute of limitations defense. On September 16, 1986, defendants sought leave to amend their answers to include the statute of limitations defense. Defendants were allowed to amend, and discovery was reopened so that Round Lake Park could produce for plaintiffs the resolution approving the annexation petitions, but Round Lake Park informed the plaintiffs that it could not locate the resolution. Plaintiffs sought reconsideration of the order allowing defendants to amend, but the motion was denied, and judgment on the pleadings for defendants was granted. Plaintiffs filed a timely notice of appeal.

There have also been two motions taken with the case. The first is defendants' motion to supplement the record on appeal with certain documents pertaining to a related Federal case, to which plaintiffs have objected. The second is plaintiffs' motion to strike certain portions of defendants' brief.

Plaintiffs first argue that the trial court erred in allowing defendants to amend their answers to include a statute of limitations defense. Plaintiffs recognize that a trial court's decision to allow or deny amendments will not be disturbed on review absent an abuse of discretion (DiBenedetto v. County of Du Page (1986), 141 Ill. App. 3d 675, 681), but plaintiffs contend that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the amendments here in several respects. After reviewing these arguments, however, we find no abuse of discretion.

Section 2-616(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure specifically provides that amendments adding new defenses may be allowed at any time prior to final judgment. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 2-616(a).) This court has consistently held that the provisions of that section are to be liberally construed. (Adams v. Zayre Corp. (1986), 148 Ill. App. 3d 704, 710; Hoffman v. Nustra (1986), 143 Ill. App. 3d 259, 265.) Furthermore, "[doubts] should be resolved in favor of allowing amendments." Blazina v. Blazina (1976), 42 Ill. App. 3d 159, 165.

Plaintiffs argue that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing defendants to add a defense which was available from the day the action was filed, nearly 4 1/2 years before the amendment in question was sought. Plaintiffs note that the decision on which defendants base their amended affirmative defense should have been known to defendants at the time their original answer was filed. Plaintiffs also point to numerous opportunities defendants had to attack the complaint during the 4 1/2 years and argue that defendants should have been required to explain why their statute of limitations defense was not offered earlier.

It is true that courts often disapprove of late amendments regarding matters of which the pleader knew at the time of the original pleading and for which the pleader offers no good reason for omitting in the original pleading. (Hoffman v. Nustra (1986), 143 Ill. App. 3d 259, 266; Blazina v. Blazina (1976), 42 Ill. App. 3d 159, 165.) This is especially so if the opposing party would be prejudiced by the amendment or the nature and quality of proof required would be altered. (Blazina, 42 Ill. App. 3d at 165.) Conversely, courts have upheld ...


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